Last Monday I made the assertion that if a pastor really wants to grow the church God has charged him to shepherd he should faithfully preach the gospel to his people. I want to take a little deeper look at this idea and perhaps determine why so many pastors choose other means to grow their churches.
To begin, lets take a look at what scripture teaches us about itself:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:16-17
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. —Isaiah 55:10-11
In these 3 passages we learn that the Word is inspired by God and will equip believers for every good work God has for them, that God’s Word is alive and able to discern what is going on in the hearts of men and women, and that God’s Word will never go out without accomplishing exactly what God intends for it to accomplish.
If we believe that these scriptures are true, then shouldn’t our church services be centered around the proclamation of the Word? And yet how often do we see a church advertise as their main attraction the faithful proclamation of the whole council of God? (I don’t know about you but I don’t think I have ever seen that here in Rome.) We see many churches advertise their exciting worship, their commitment to serving the community, or their great environments. Are any of those things necessarily wrong? No, but none of those things come with the promise that the proclamation of the Word does.
So why isn’t the teaching of the bible the centerpiece of more our church services?
Because we don’t really believe that it works. We don’t believe God knows what He is doing.
I can think of no other possible reason that we wouldn’t place the teaching of the Word over all other church activities and functions. We don’t really believe that people will be attracted to the teaching of the bible. We think we need to lure them to our churches with other means and methods.
Do we not realize that worship becomes exciting, that true servanthood, and that great environments all occur as a result of believers being matured under faithful teaching of the Word of God? Do we really think that there is anything that could more attractive to the world than Jesus being fully formed in us?
In our efforts to make our churches more accessible, more palatable, and more appealing to the lost, we have marginalized the one thing they really need. They don’t need our cool songs or our innovative strategies. They need to hear the biblical gospel and they need to see maturing believers who are becoming more like Christ as they hear and (by grace) apply the teachings of scripture. You may say, “Once we have gotten them to our church with these other things, we teach them the Word.” That may be true. I certainly hope it is. (If it isn’t, you aren’t actually a church anyway.) But what are you teaching your people is most important? What do you talk about most. What do you think your people are telling others about your church? My guess is that it probably isn’t the teaching. Our people will hold as most important what we are most passionate about and outspoken about as leaders.
Are you most passionate about the Word or is it some other aspect of church?
We can try to make church better, more attractive, more relevant, more this, better that……but in the end we must not forget that the Word does the work, not us.